Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Our Immigration Story


 


            I think I probably tell this story once every few years but given all the drama in the election there were some things that were brought up, and again I found myself needing to share our story again.

            I grew up in a small Ohio town in what is considered the heart of Ohio.  I don’t remember ever thinking about Canada much as a kid, nor realizing that the Southern border was 3 hours north of my childhood home.  I do remember my father going up there once on business and bring back money that looked fake and thinking how cool it was.

            Many of you have heard the funny story of how I met my amazing super awesome husband.  It’s really a long story but to make it short: I was dating a different man in college at OSU, he decided to move to Pittsburgh to go to school there, in my defense that man and I were kind of in a place of breaking up, he met Dan and decided to get an apartment with him, my husband of over 16 years was my ex-boyfriends roommate and that ex part is debatable. Honestly I don’t know how God would have brought us together any other way. 

            Anyway, Dan was born in Canada.  Actually his parents were both born in Italy and both sides immigrated to Canada in the 50’s.  Dan was a Canadian citizen. I’d also like to mention here he grew up like 20 minutes across the border. It was a divine intervention of God that Dan decided to come to the States to go to school. He first went to Chicago and then to Pittsburgh. Truthfully when I met him, he wasn’t sure if he’d go back to Canada or stay in the US.  He came here on a student visa: Which in loose terms means that the US was cool for him to come here and go to get an education, but they did expect him to go back to his own country.  This was paperwork Dan had to apply for long before he met me and they run back ground checks on him and approve him.

            When we met and fell in love in 1999, I never realized the hurdles we were going to have to jump through to be able to stay in one country together.  I am not complaining.  I saw time and time again God blessed us in this process, but it was a process.  When he married me, he actually had to refile his immigration forms and status.  It actually made him essentially start over in the process. People often have these crazy perceptions that if you a citizen, marries a non-citizen that they somehow automatically get citizenship.  Um no.  That may have happened at some point in American History but not now.  There are shows like 90 Day Fiancé with TLC and the movie Green Card with Andie MacDowell that I’ll admit to watching.  I find them both funny and a little misleading.  It takes a lot to go through the process.  I know that some people do try to hook up with Americans for the Green Card but it’s just not that easy.  I had several people who knew people who tried to become citizens and had horror stories, and have shared them with me.

            Initially Dan and I planned to have a wedding in the church I grew up in, and drive 3 hours to have a big Italian reception in Canada that would make my in-laws happy all on the same day. I was still living in Ohio, and he was a 3 hour drive east.  Through a divine encounter we were put in front of an immigration lawyer who told us that because Dan’s status was changing he couldn’t leave the country until more paper work were filed.  IE had we had done the wedding and reception on the same day they wouldn’t have let him back in the United States because it was considered abandonment.  So having already had deposits on the reception hall, we decided to move up our wedding 3 months so that the paperwork could be filed in order for him to leave the country. Most people have a week long honeymoon after their weddings.  I had an appointment at an immigration firm two days later so that all the paperwork could be filed.  All worked out beautifully including a real honeymoon later.  We had to pay fees for filing all this paperwork, God always provided but there were hoops to jump through.

            But then we moved from Ohio.  Dan and I have often joked that being in the immigration system is kind of like being on parole.  You have to make sure that everyone knows where you are and all the paperwork is filled out properly. Back then you couldn’t just walk into an office to ask a question easily.  It was complicated and overwhelming.   It was confusing and often we got different answers.  I remember once sitting in an immigration office in Orlando for 5 hours.  By this point, Dan was legally allowed to work and he had to be at work.  I was pregnant for our oldest daughter and the office had one working bathroom and  a whole lot of people from all over the world.  I sat there all day to ask a question: was told horror stories by other immigrants, and when I finally got to the front the immigration guard started making fun of me for marrying a non-US citizen. 

            Then came September 11, 2001…I think everyone around the world knew what they were doing that day.  A few days after the dust settled Dan got his Green Card in the mail.  After 9/11 I will say immigration improved.  Instead of waiting for 5 hours in a one bathroom office and a metal detector, you could actually call a government phone number and wait on hold.  But at least you were in the privacy of your own home; they could access your files, and give you answers. 

I never wanted to make a big deal about Dan becoming a US citizen.  I think initially he seriously considered not doing so and just renewing his Green Card, but I’m so grateful he came to the conclusion to become a citizen.  In 2006 after interviews, fingerprints scans, years of letters sporadically that told us where and when we needed to be, and fees we needed to pay, he became a citizen. He studied hard for the test and was really annoyed when it wasn’t as hard as he thought it should be.  He has always been a contributing member to our nation and society.  He is a hard worker and a man of ‘classic American dreams’.  He prays for this nation.  He votes for righteousness. He loves this nation.  He is awesome.

            The topic of immigration and immigration reform is something I listen to now, because I’ve walked through the system.  As a born American citizen, and my husband a naturalized citizen I think that I probably have a better understanding of it then most Americans. It is a challenge.  It does not happen overnight.  It can get frustrating.  This nation was founded on immigrants.  I believe in that, but Dan and I went through the process legally.  When the immigration office told us to show up for interviews, the test, the swearing in, etc we had to jump.  He took time off of work and we paid the fees.

I get annoyed at so many people coming over to this country illegally and many just want to rewards for their illegal actions. I’m all for people coming to the US, but they have to do so like everyone else.  They have to go through the proper channels and authorities.  If we want people to be here and be upstanding members of our society don’t we want people that will uphold our laws? Why should we make exceptions for people because they broke the law?  Honestly it’s not the immigrant that I find all the fault in this, they are trying to make a better life for themselves,  it’s the people who will employ them and the lawmakers that make exceptions for them once they’re here.  I also understand that Dan and I were educated and not everyone around the world would have the access to what we did in order to go through the hoops, however so many aren’t even trying.  They are demanding their ways into our country illegally and then getting offended when we ask they do it legally. I firmly disagree with safe haven cities.  I think everyone should have to obey the law. The double standard to this is beyond crazy.  It’s not out of fear that I think people should have background checks and not have terrorist ties before entering our nation.  That’s called wisdom.  It’s not because I don’t feel compassion for people who are fleeing horrific conditions that I would ask that.  That’s not racist.  My husband had to go through that.  Why shouldn’t they? Why are we making exceptions for people because they like to yell and protest?  The noisy wheel doesn’t always need all the attention.

I also want to address this stereotype that some Americans have with immigrants.  Recently I was discussing our story with someone on social media and an individual starting going off about how the immigrants of today are not what they were 200 years ago.  I genuinely understood what she was trying to say, and no she didn’t offend me.  But what she was saying is a stereotype.  My husband and I are sure many other immigrants are contributors to our country.  We must try not to stereotype ever, no matter what side of a debate you are on.  It’s my hope in sharing our story, that people see that the immigration system is flawed, but still needs to be enforced and we shouldn’t make exceptions to that.  Maybe it can be improved, but asking people to come to our country legally isn’t racist.  You wouldn’t invite a serial killer (I’m not saying all immigrants are serial killers) into your house.  It’s just wisdom.  

Whatever side of a situation you find yourself on: Loving someone doesn't mean you agree with everything, Disagreeing doesn't have to equal hate.

Remember God has awesome plans for your life.  Get excited.

2 comments:

  1. Great article very interesting situation. Such an eye opener on American immigration. We are not as tight in the UK. Good points made.

    ReplyDelete